Shopping centres quids in as Poundland leads bargain boom

Shopping malls have seen a sudden influx of discount shopping chains. And, oddly, luxury goods firms.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 01 Oct 2013
A series of upmarket openings like Westfield and Bristol’s Cabot Circus seemed to signal a new dawn for the humble shopping centre - but it looks like it may have been a false one. According to a new survey by retail consultants Trevor Wood Associates, the nation’s shopping malls are turning into giant bargain bins as discount retailers like Poundland, Peacocks and H&M snap up the empty stores left behind when chains like Adams and Woolworths went out of business.

In fact, the survey, which monitors 500 shopping centres, found that over the past three years, Poundland has been the fastest-growing store in the UK. Trevor Wood points out that the store’s speedy growth ‘reflects what’s happening in the wider market’, i.e. in terms of shoppers looking for bargains. But it has clearly helped that the chain (which is 75% owned by US private equity firm Warburg Pincus) snapped up a large percentage of the properties vacated by Woolworths when it closed its doors in 2008.

Poundland isn’t the only brand that’s seen fast growth in shopping centres: Greggs is also baking up a storm as cash-strapped shoppers swap the 'attractions' of the food court for a sausage roll on the go, while Subway has also been cashing in on the trend for cheap food. Also among the top 20 fastest growers were budget footwear brand Shoe Zone and household chain Wilkinsons.

However, the survey also found that brands at the other end of the market, like Jo Malone and Molton Brown, have been moving off the high street and into shopping centres. Apparently, retailers that traditionally used expensive high street properties have chosen to decamp to climate-controlled environs because, with shops closing down all around them, high streets have begun to look a bit tatty. So retailers like Reiss and (cutesy handbag chain) Radley have moved into the upmarket ‘village’ areas of malls like Bluewater and Cabot Circus - where, presumably, the chances of their neighbours going out of business and erecting unsightly hoardings around their shops are less likely.

According to the survey, the nation’s favourite shopping centre is Bluewater in Kent (Westfield took third spot). But with all these brands flooding through their revolving doors, it’s not surprising that most of the UK’s top 27 shopping centres are planning to expand. And who are we to argue, when you can pop in for a kettle and come out with a Pomegranate Noir scented candle from Jo Malone, and a Subway Meatball Marinara if you want a snack...

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